The South Indian side had to dig deep to salvage a draw in their first ever continental encounter…
Chennai City FC had to toil hard to salvage a point from their maiden AFC Cup match after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation Club at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai on Wednesday.
It was the home side the took the lead through Spanish forward Adolfo Araujo Fito (12′) in the first half. But Maziya hit back through goals from defensive midfielder Mohamed Irufaan (64′) and Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain (67′). However, Fito (89′) had the final say in the matter when he equalised late on.
The draw in the opening game of Group E leaves Chennai City with work to do in the remaining five matches while Maziya, who defeated Indian Super League (ISL) outift Bengaluru FC to reach the group stages, will be happy with the result.
Chennai City custodian Nauzet Santana was forced into a save in the very first minute to keep out an opportunistic long range effort. But the I-League champions settled into the match quite quickly, with their crisp passing and movement troubling the Maldivian side.
Katsumi Yusa was heavily involved in the early exchanges and combined well with Ajith Kamaraj down the left wing. The duo were involved again as Chennai City found the breakthrough in the 12th minute. Yusa found Kamaraj in space down the left who picked out Fito with a crisp cut-back. The Spaniard showed wonderful feet to take in his stride, ease past a couple of defenders before slamming a shot in off the goalkeeper at the near post from an acute angle.
However, immediately after the goal, Maziya found an opening when Ibrahim Mahudhee Hussain found space to shoot inside the box. But Nauzet Santana was alert enough to parry it away.
Chennai City continued to dominate possession but failed to create many clear cut chances as the first half wore on. Maziya, on the other hand, resorted to long range efforts which did not really trouble Santana. Regardless, there were a couple of half-chances for the Maziya forwards but the Chennai City defence dealt with it comfortably.
The visitors had a great chance at the start of the second half when Mohammad Sharif found space to run down the right wing on a counter-attack. He got to the byline and his ball across the face of the box fell for Hamza Mohamed who blazed his effort over.
Chennai City seemed a bit passive in attack and were punished just past the hour mark. In the 64th minute, Hamza floated a dangerous freekick into the box. Maziya skipper Mohamed Irufaan was criminally left unmarked and he duly headed it in.
Three minutes later, Hamza was involved again as Maziya took the lead. The visitors’ No.10 received possession during a quick counter and slipped in Hussain Nihan into the box whose cutback evaded the scrambling Chennai City defenders, with Mahudhee Hussain duly turning it in from close range.
A stung Chennai City endeavoured to mount a comeback but seemed to run out of ideas in the final third as Maziya sat deep. But the sustained spell of pressure finally told in the 89th minute when Charles Lourdusamy’s hopeful effort was spilt by the Maziya custodian. Fito was quick to pounce on the rebound and roll it in.
Viji Nagappan missed a golden chance in injury time as Maziya held on to deny Chennai City all three points.